Friday, February 13, 2009

The Future of the Book - post I

This is one of those books that makes you realise that the moment between casual interest and something more dedicated has been crossed.

This is a weighty text book type collection of papers given at a conference looking into the future of the book. In some respects the immediate problem is the way they have dated with technology moving a great deal quicker than most of the contributors here expected.

But aside from that there are some interesting points that are worth drawing out from the different chapters.

Introduction by Geoffrey Nunberg

Some like to say we are at a crossroads of post modernism driven there by technology. As a result there is plenty of conjecture whether or not the book is going through its death throes.

There are some books that benefit from a swift move to digital – encyclopaedias, reference books and travel guides. As a result the role of the library changes.

With hypertext going beyond the book how does that work? How can the reader be guided?

Chapter one: Books in Time by Carla Hesse

The history of the book needs to be understood: The medium is not the mode.

A modern literary system emerges in the late 18th century and authors became entities that are similar to those today. But books were never the most prevalent form of printed matter.

“…books have never been the exclusive, or even the most prevalent form of printed matter, though they have been the most privileged and most protected.” Pg 23


Books have also been debunked before being cast as a repository of falsehoods according to Locke and it fixes knowledge and pins down authors in ways that are seen as a constraint according to Condorcet.

Technology is helping to remake the literary system with the question of authorship again something debated. There is a reinvention of the intellectual community.

“The introduction of these new technologies has radically destabilised and transformed the legal, economic, political and institutional infrastructure of modern knowledge exchange…”pg 29

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